Whiting column: Make the effort and reap the benefit | PostIndependent.com

Whiting column: Make the effort and reap the benefit

Bryan Whiting

Last column we discussed our desire for government to be personally responsible. The logical extension is government encouraging us to be personally responsible.

Unemployment compensation is an example. If we lose our job, we can receive unemployment compensation to help support our family and meet our basic needs until we obtain our next job. A great country provides such service at a time of need, but we must do our part.

We must look for work, not sabotage an interview and utilize educational opportunities. Because some aren’t personally responsible, our government should encourage it by requiring a high school diploma as a prerequisite to receiving unemployment or other forms of welfare. To qualify for the benefit, it’s not unreasonable to be required to do our part.

This isn’t an unfunded mandate. Free education through high school is available for all. Some don’t possess the internal drive to stay in school. They feel entitled to and will receive the benefits of government offers, without taking any responsibility for their own decisions and behavior. Sadly, many will not change unless provided additional motivation.

Regardless of a person’s situation and previous decisions, education is the route to change. Life is simple. You don’t qualify for the career you desire? Get trained. A potential employer won’t hire you because you smoke? Then quit. A potential employer won’t hire you because you can’t pass a drug test? Then quit. If you don’t, you don’t deserve the benefits our country provide. It was your decision.

Life is simple. If lack of English literacy is holding you back, then learn English. Make the effort and reap the benefit. We have a duty to learn the language of the country that enables us to make a living.

The government could encourage personal responsibility by requiring English literacy, within a specified, reasonable period of time to be eligible for unemployment and welfare.

Not speaking English after years of living here is hardly a display of responsible behavior.

Other out-of-the-box solutions may be the best route to bring personal responsibility back to the forefront. What if a person should repay unemployment benefits? The recipient signs a promissory note and after they are employed, pay some back each month. Obviously, enforcement would not be practical and the obligation would not be part of one’s credit record, but that’s not the point. It may be naïve, but I feel some would repay, because they would feel a sense of responsibility to help others as they were helped. At the very least, it may rekindle the concept of personal responsibility in some for whom it has been in hiding.

Law requires a car be insured with liability coverage, but all are not personally responsible and obtain it. The result: The rest of us have to purchase uninsured motorist coverage. A solution: Insure the person, not the car, and require insurance to get a driver’s license. People cause wrecks, not cars. I understand the different risk levels associated with type and value of a car, but if someone owns more than one car, they can only drive one at a time. It’s the driver who needs insuring. If insurance is canceled, the company must report such to CDOT and police, and the driver’s license is revoked. Some would still drive without a license, but the number would be lower.

We condemn deviant behavior, but then publicize it — which is the motivation for most such behavior. We all seek and require attention. Those not receiving it through achievements, personality or doing something constructive, whether from lacking confidence, manners or work ethic, devise other ways.

Vandalism is one method. Publicity encourages it, because vandals receive the attention they desire. The recent actions at Hanging Lake are an example. When we show pictures of it, the motivation is validated and rewarded. We can’t ignore it, but we could report the consequence — the lake may be closed and the reason — of the vandalism, without accompanying photos or a description of its nature. With photos, other nonachievers start thinking of “copycat” actions, and the vandals are in control.

Schools occasionally make the same mistake. Someone writes profanity on the bathroom mirror, so we close the bathroom; someone knocks over a flower pot, so we remove the flowers. Instead, let’s clean the mirror and get more flowers. We have to decide who is in charge. Do we want it to be the student who had to go one on one with a mirror or flower pot to feel successful or everyone else?

A few years ago, virtually every football or baseball game had someone running on the field. Every week it became more common, until TV networks realized they were the ones being played and decided not to show it. As a result, such actions have basically ceased.

To some degree, the same is true of more tragic behavior. One of the difficulties police face in apprehending a serial killer is sorting through all the false “confessions” they receive after the killer is given a label by the press or their method publicized. Again, we can’t ignore it, but we can avoid the more specific publicity that facilitates the copycat.

Not only should we demand personally responsible behavior from our government, we should expect them and our other institutions to facilitate it in all of us.

Bryan Whiting feels most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of non-partisan economics rather than by government intervention. He is retired after 40 years of teaching marketing, entrepreneurship and economics. Comments and column suggestions to: bwpersonalresponsibility@gmail.com.

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